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A couple of years ago, after my first few months in Aikido, I had a vivid dream, which I posted about then. When I woke up I could see and feel it in great detail, and I still can. It wasn't until later that day I realized it was about Aikido.
In the dream I suddenly found myself in a totally unfamiliar, incomprehensible new world. A simple, quiet, calm place, where the people seemed to share a sense of purpose and belonging. Sensei was an old, wise woman, a compassionate leader, trusted by the people. I knew there was no going back, that this was to be my new life. I was upset, but I knew I was safe. I knew the leader and the people could be trusted.
And that's exactly how it's been.
On a recent Thursday evening, just two days before a friend's exam for 4th kyu, I limped into the dojo hoping I could at least sit for the 15 minutes of meditation before class. I had gotten out of a chair the wrong way, and badly screwed up something in my right hip. I'd been kept up by the pain most of the previous night, and had only gotten around the house that day by using a jo as a walking stick. My dear husband, Michael, drove me to the dojo, because he knows how I am. He insisted that I go, if only to watch. Bless his heart.
I had been training with my friend for her exam. When I got to the dojo I told Sensei that I wouldn't be able to take ukemi for her - he'd need to find someone else. In the past, never half as bad as this time, it had taken weeks for my hip to get better, and her exam was to be on Saturday morning. Sensei was unfazed. "In my world it's normal to be taking ukemi 2 days after you can't walk."
Really? Like a little kid hearing a fantastic story, I wanted to believe in it. I wanted to live in that magical world.
Let's just say I was skeptical. Hopeful, but skeptical.
Someday I will stop being surprised at this, or maybe, stubbornly, I will continue to be surprised every time: Sensei was right. He guided me through some stretches, and I was actually able to participate in both classes that night. By Friday night's class I was better still. By Saturday morning I had to think hard to remember which hip it had been. There were some big ups and downs in the next couple of weeks, and ultimately it got better. But that Saturday I was able to take ukemi for my friend's exam, no problem. More significantly, I had learned I could be perfectly fine in a much shorter time than I'd ever thought possible.
"In my world it's normal to be taking ukemi 2 days after you can't walk."
That's a pretty awesome world. That's the world I saw in my dream. It's real.
It's a world where we are pushed to go beyond our perceived limits, to explore outside of the arbitrary boundaries we have declared to be our reality. In this world teachers and friends don't buy into our stories and whining. Instead they lift us up and help us see further, and then kick our butts to get us into action. Sometimes they help us to understand that patience and gentleness with ourselves is part of the process, too. And we try to do the same for them.
In this world I've never encountered the sympathetic-sounding, but ultimately defeating excuses and dismissals I heard so often in my past: Don't expect too much of yourself; Don't get your hopes up; Not everyone can be good at this; Maybe when you are older; Maybe if you'd started when you were younger; Old habits are hard to break; It's rough out there, be careful; You can always do it just for fun; Don't work so hard, that's good enough; Besides, it's not like you'll actually need to know it, you'll never do anything with it anyway.
This is a world where it's OK to pursue mastery. It's OK to expect that continued growth and development are available to anyone who applies themselves. It's OK to be a serious student. It's OK to ask for support, and to give it, so we all grow together. It's OK for the impossible to be quite possible. It's OK to make big changes. It's OK to heal. And it's OK to do it right now.
The world I saw in my dream was a simple, quiet, calm place, where the people seemed to share a sense of purpose and belonging, and I knew the leader and the people could be trusted. It's a real place. I like it here.